Ksour and Kasbahs

Ksour (plural for ksar) are fortified villages with houses, granaries, cemeteries (both Jewish and Muslim), hammams, and shops. Kasbahs are fortified castles belonging to a single family and often contain their own granaries, wells, and places for prayer. Moroccan ksour and kasbahs are all built of pisé, a sun-dried mixture of mud and clay. The Erfoud–Ouarzazate road through the Dadès Valley is billed as the "Route of the Thousand Kasbahs," with village after village of fortified pisé structures, many decorated with carved and painted geometrical patterns (the more intricate the motif, the wealthier the owner). The kasbahs served the caravan trains that passed along this trans-Saharan trade route. Camel trains loaded with salt or gold were targets for bandits so staying in a fortified village made sense. The merchants preempted what is now the tourist trade. The Drâa Valley is also rimmed with kasbahs and ksour for the length of the Agdz–Zagora road. Highlights of the Dadès route are the Kasbah Amerhidil, at the Skoura oasis, and the Aït Ben Haddou kasbahs, near Ouarzazate; showstoppers in the Drâa Valley include the 16th-century ksour at Tamnougalt, just south of Agdz, and the 17th-century Ksar Tissergate, just north of Zagora—both now feature interesting museums. Increasingly, these historic structures are being restored and converted into guesthouses. Staying in one that achieves the perfect balance is an unforgettable experience.

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